Jeff Abbott (’93)

Category: Accomplished Alumni | Awards

“In today’s world,” said Jeff Abbott (’93) to a group of Haslam College of Business students on a recent visit, “the strength of the brand is the strength of the workforce. Nurturing the people you hire is crucial, because people are the special sauce for innovation.”

Abbott is an EVP and General Manager for Infor, one of the world’s top business applications software vendors. He runs all of Latin American operations as well as Infor’s widespread partner network. He is also chief learning officer, which made for interesting words for the students. “The business community around the world is on fire,” said Abbott. “Innovation is everywhere. That means the sky’s the limit for all of you.”

Abbott grew up the third of four children of a GM executive in Fenton, Michigan, surrounded by a large extended family, including 50 first cousins. His mother, Irene, was one of nine children. The guests at his grandmother’s annual Christmas parties numbered well over 100. “With my big Irish Catholic family,” says Abbott, “I had great mentors from my many big-brother cousins, aunts, and uncles, who emphasized work ethic, strong bonds, and integrity.”

As Abbott was entering his senior year at Lake Fenton High School, his father, Clare, was transferred to Spring Hill, Tennessee, as a member of the leadership team launching the new Saturn vehicle. That fall Abbott toured UT. “I fell in love,” he remembers. “It was the beauty of the campus, and it was my first exposure to southern hospitality.” He made friends for life during orientation week and started in the Tickle College of Engineering, playing on the club lacrosse and hockey teams.

Abbott interned his first summer in Spring Hill with Morrison-Knudsen construction, which was building the Saturn plant. The next summer he was a site engineering intern with Saturn. “I saw that it was all about solving challenges,” he says. “But I did notice how they were trying to optimize logistics. I came back and looked into our program. We had the strongest faculty, with professors like John Langley and Karl Manrodt who had an uncommon passion for the discipline of supply chain management.” Abbott interned in corporate logistics in fall 1991 and 1992 with International Paper in Memphis and then as a corporate sales intern in spring 1993 with UPS in Knoxville.

After earning his degree in supply chain management in 1993, Abbott joined Georgia Pacific’s corporate logistics organization in Atlanta. He married Jacqueline Gonzalez, who also worked at Georgia Pacific, on July 5, 1997, in Fenton, Michigan, near his large extended family.

After two years at Georgia Pacific, Abbott worked for five years in the supply chain strategy practice for Anderson Consulting, now Accenture, earning his MBA at Georgia State in 1999. In 2000 he began nine years at Oracle, rising to group vice president of the global midmarket applications business unit.

In 2008 Abbot joined Infor, another giant in the enterprise software market as VP for global solution marketing and then as VP for global product management. He rose to senior VP and general manager of global alliances and channels, telesales, business development, and field marketing. In 2018 he was promoted to his current job as EVP and general manager for Latin America and Infor’s partner network.

The business software world is changing rapidly, Abbott told the Haslam College of Business students, especially in the area of human capital management, or HCM. “We’re in a period that this is no longer your mother of father’s HR department,” he said. “When we sell software, often the human resources officer is one of the decision-makers. We have a solution called ‘talent science’ that can evaluate potential or current employees and take into account not only their personal characteristics and their level of education, but also simulations of how they handle conflict.”

Another area of rapid innovation is robotic process automation, or RPA, a new field in which companies are exploring opportunities to automate repetitive functions. “It’s a fundamental shift, leveraging artificial intelligence to improve performance across a number of jobs and functions. And leveraging talent science and AI means we’re trying to build an innovator work force—a work force that is free from the mundane repetitive tasks to create the next great thing.”

The Abbotts live in Canton, Georgia. They have three children, Mitch, Sophie, and Mia. They have always come to one or two football games each fall, but they’ve bought tickets for all the home games in 2019. “I love this campus,” said Abbott. “I love this school.”